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Inside and Out, Tours Reveal Some of Capitol’s Secrets

In a fast-paced workplace, it’s easy to let the bland surroundings of an office fade into the background. But working at the U.S. Capitol is hardly comparable to a run-of-the-mill office building.

With a variety of tours offered both inside and around the Capitol, those who work on the Hill have a unique opportunity to learn more about their historic workplace.

Inside the Capitol, the Capitol Guide Service offers tours Mondays through Saturdays beginning at 9 a.m. until the Capitol’s closing at 4:30 p.m. This tour, which runs 30 to 45 minutes, brings participants in the Capitol through the south side entrance to the central sections, including Statuary Hall, the Rotunda and the Crypt, then exits through the West Front.

The Capitol Guide Service tours are free, but passes must be obtained at a kiosk located at the southwest corner of the Capitol and are on a first-come, first-served basis.

For a tour of sites outside the Dome, a good way to start off the week is with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society’s weekly public walking tour. The two hour tour meets at 10 a.m. on Mondays in front of the Massachusetts Avenue Metro entrance at Union Station.

USCHS Chief Guide Steve Livengood says the “strictly outside” tours of the Capitol campus are full of facts “most people don’t know and would find interesting.”

The volunteer guides for the USCHS entertain participants with historical facts, some widely known and others much more obscure. For instance, there is a creek that runs under Union Station, down Constitution Avenue and eventually empties into the Potomac. The floodwalls located on each side of Tiber Creek at its entry point are named, appropriately, “watergates.”

The guides also explain the processes of Congress, the reason for why the Capitol site was chosen and the history of the construction of the historic building, which was done in many sections.

And with the opening of the Capitol Visitor Center, projected for September 2006, the Capitol tours are expected to be better organized and able to accommodate a higher volume of visitors to the Capitol.

There are still many other guide services to employ depending on the amount of time and people wishing to view the Capitol.

Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, D.C.

When, Where, Cost: Varies depending on group size, date of tour.

Phone: (202) 298-1474


U.S. Capitol Guide Service

When: Passes handed out beginning at 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. Tours are year-round, Monday through Saturday. No tours on Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day.

Where: Pass kiosk located near the intersection of First Street Southwest and Independence Avenue.

Cost: Free

Phone: (202) 225-6827

U.S. Capitol Historical Society

When: 10 a.m. every Monday, March through November. Tours last approximately two hours.

Where: Union Station Metro, Massachusetts Avenue exit, top of outside escalator.

Cost: $10 per person (children under 6 free; ages 6-10, half-price). Free for USCHS Members (by reservation). Only cash is accepted, and the fee is collected at the beginning of the tour.

Reservations: None required, though society members should call ahead. Group tours may reserve for other times as well.

Phone: (202) 543-8919 ext. 17

Washington Walks

When: 1:30 p.m. second and fourth Saturdays of the month.

Where: Eastern Market Metro station

Cost: Adults $10, children 12 and under $5. Cash only.

Phone: (202) 484-1565